Thursday, February 19, 2009

Be Weird For the Right Reasons

I think of myself as a follower of Jesus, who is called to be a pastor, and who has been blessed to worship and dwell and work with a wonderful group of Jesus-followers. Some view us as "charismatic." I prefer "followers of Jesus."

The more I read and study and meditate on the central person in the Christian Scriptures, Jesus the Christ, the more I am taken by his central message, which is about the kingdom of God. It's clear to me that Jesus both proclaimed the good news of God's kingdom, demonstrated it with miraculous signs and wonders, and understood that the real conflict was a spiritual thing involving the kingdom of Satan (aka the kingdom of darkness). I believe all of the above.

I also understand that I live in a secular age. (See Charles Taylor's brilliant work to understand the depths of this.) So, when I stand before my philosophy students in the community college I teach at and say "I believe in Jesus" and mean by this "I embrace Jesus' message of the kingdom, that miraculous signs and wonders are part of actual Christianity, and that we battle not merely against people but against dark spiritual forces," some students view me as, I think, a bit off. Some are intrigued. Some don't know what to do with this. To help them I remind them that the class is philosophy of religion, and the Christian "religion" is one of the Big 5. I realize my take on what actual Christianity is is not universally shared, but it is a major interpretation of Christianity.

In a secular, post-Christian, de-sacralized world, what I believe and expect is weird. Increasingly, I don't mind being that kind of weird. Actually everyone is "weird," if we understand "weirdness" as "not fitting in with my worldview." In that sense I find atheistic expectations and incongruencies weird.

If you're going to be weird, be weird for the right reasons. But don't be weird for weirdness's sake. "Weirdness" qua weirdness is no virtue. Spiritually, it's even dangerous. Today, as it has been in every era, we have "Christians" who love weirdness more than they love the real Jesus. So they bring in all kinds of cultural inebriation into the church. It's here that I point you to Lee Grady's recent article "Strange Fire In the House of the Lord." If you're a follower of the Jesus who still works the miraculous and still delivers us out of the kingdom of darkness, you would do well to read the wise counsel of Grady here. He's the editor of Charisma magazine, and a person who wants the real fire of God, which is a fire that heals and delivers and restores and reveals the beautiful kingdom of God to people, and sees actual, genuine miraculous signs as "signs" which are not to be worshiped themselves but which point people to the one thing they need more than any sign; viz., God the Sign-Giver.

Younger Jesus-followers who are zealous for the fire of God continue to need older mentors to steer them through their journey and help them learn to discern the real activity of Jesus from the fake. Thanks to Lee Grady for helping us do that.